Thursday, October 31, 2013

Advice for Young Teachers From the Experts

This fall my third grade class had a wonderful experience with my wife's graduate students.  It was truly was Heidi calls Curricular Heaven.  We have had our respective classes connecting over the years.  Back when Heidi was teaching young undergrads in Elementary Education, my former students were pen-pals with hers, developing strong relations through writing.  I just reposted a story about that.

For the past several years, Heidi has taught her language arts methods classes right on our school campus.  We pair our students up for a semester long project we call Tall and Small Teachers.  We read together, write together, hang out and get to know each other.  All of these literacy engagements are perfect for a lot of reasons.  My students get to know an adult who listens and coaches and cares.  Heidi's graduate students, who will be doing their full-time student teaching next semester, get to really know how a third grader thinks and reads and writes.

Our final visit was last Tuesday.  The Tall Teachers created unique books for my students.  They are treasures.  The small teachers wrote letters for  their adults.  My suggestions were to share some memories, thank them for the good times and to give them advice.  After all, who better to give advice to a future teacher of young kids than a child?  I told my students as they got ready to write - Heidi and their university instructors can tell them what is important.  I can give them some ideas about how to teach well, "But you are the real experts.  You are the ones they will teach when they have a chance.  You know, more than the adults who are their teachers, what kids need in an effective teacher."

So they wrote.  The sound of their pencils pushing across their papers was just about all one could hear in our classroom for half an hour or forty minutes.  Most of the children took this responsibility very seriously.   Some of what they shared was very personal.  They remembered special books, jokes, when we had a picnic outside for lunch.  They remembered when the Tall Teachers helped them edit their animal articles and when they gave them written feedback on the memoirs they wrote in class.  And the advice the children wrote to their Tall Teachers was priceless.

I have published similar posts in the past where I posit that kids are wiser than grownups often give them credit for.  Hey, I work with these guys.  They are my best friends.  I have been doing it for 33 years now.  And my mom did it before me.  Even if you are not a teacher, you will probably think that this is some sage advice...

Don't act like you know everything and be honest.  Bond with your kids and have a good relationship...  Don't blow your top and yell at your kids.  Don't get aggravated with your kids...  Balance out teaching and fun.  Spend lots of fun time with your students.  Play with them at recess...  1st step - Be yourself.  2nd step - Don't tell a lie...  If a student doesn't understand something, take your time to teach them.  Try to be funny with your students.  When one of your students is sad, try to make them happy...  Write songs.  Do fun science things with your students...  Try not to be selfish or confusing...  Be fearless...   When you teach you should laugh when something's funny.  Or you should giggle.  Teachers should care about their kids and they should like their students.  Make interesting voices when you read stories...  Sing with your kids if you have the time...  Don't crack weak jokes - crack funny jokes...  Reads lots of books to your kids.  Answer the kids' questions.  Have animals in your classroom.  Play chess with your kids.  Eat lunch with your kids.  Love on your kids...    For your classroom you should have good books for the kids to read.  You should be prepared for anything otherwise you could have some hard times...  Be exuberant!  Know if somebody needs help...  Go deeply into any topic...  Be understanding about kids' feelings.  Remember that kids repeat the things that you do.  Treat your children the way you want to be treated...

I think we all need this advice from time to time.  Not just if you work with kids, for kids are people.  I mean we ALL need to be reminded to be kind every once in a while.  We all should remember the golden rule and how important play time is.  We should all laugh out loud and be ourselves.

And we should all be fearless.

We have magnificent brains, but we use a great deal of our brilliance to keep ourselves stuck and ignorant, to keep ourselves from not shining. We are so afraid of our beauty and radiance and brilliance because it scared the adults around us when we were children.
Patricia Sun 

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